It may seem strange, but you can make a knife out of bamboo. I’m not talking about the handle — the cutting edge itself is made of the woody part of a bamboo stalk. It occurred to me to make a knife out of bamboo when making other bamboo tools because the first step after splitting the culm is always to scrape off the sharp edge to make it safe to handle. This is part 2 of a series on bamboo tools. Part 1 — Chopsticks introduces you to the basics of working with bamboo.
Don’t get the wrong idea. You can’t shave with it; the edge might be pretty sharp, but it’s soft and will dull very quickly. Also, if you use it to cut meat, the wood gets wet and swells quickly, distorting the edge bevel to the point that it is no longer sharp. But you can definitely part a small animal or two, like squirrels, groundhogs, and rabbits, as long as you carefully avoid the bones — just stay on the meat. You can’t sharpen them, but they’re quick and easy to make, so you can easily replace them.
So what use is a bamboo knife if you already have a metal one? If you’re traveling in a group, there’s a good chance someone will have forgotten his knife, but if you make him one out of bamboo, he can still be of use; have him cut up a small animal while you build the fire, for example.
In the video I’m using a variety of Phyllostachys, which in my area (USDA Zone 6) grows to about 30 feet and a maximum of 3 inches diameter. This may vary depending on local variations in soil and climate. It’s a strong variety with a thick culm, suitable for construction of small structures.
How to Make and Use a Bamboo Knife
Watch the video for a demonstration.
- Select a straight piece of bamboo about 8 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inch wide.
- Slice off the inner pith, leaving a thin strip which includes the hard outer shell of the culm.
- Both edges are likely quite sharp already, so choose which end will be the handle and scrape the edges to make it safe to handle. Be careful not to dull the cutting edge at the working end of the knife.
- If the cutting edge isn’t sharp enough, trim off a thin strip from the blunt edge at an acute angle to create a new cutting edge.
- This cutting edge should now be sharp enough to cut through meat.
- Avoid the bones; they will quickly dull the knife. Cut to the joints and break them apart.
- Avoid cutting across a cutting board of any kind; work freehand or with the meat resting on cloth.
- Skin is tougher; you can either skin the animal or burn off the fur, scorching the skin. This makes the skin rigid and easier to cut.